What better way to start off 2017 than by watching the fifth installment of a vampire/werewolves horror franchise starring Kate Beckinsale? Well… to be honest… there are probably better ways but hell, it’s January so we’ve got slim pickings for a while. I have only seen the first Underworld film and maybe the second but I honestly don’t remember it. Usually my rule for reviewing sequels is that I had to have seen all previous installments but many people informed me that it was not necessary whatsoever for this particular film. That was only cemented by the five-minute flashback sequence that covered all the previous Underworld films to bring us up to speed on the story up to this point. Let’s dive in!
This film picks up where the last one finished off (I think) as Selene (Kate Beckinsale) has already sent her daughter off to exile where no one (not even herself) knows where she is in order to protect her from both vampires and lycans. You see, Selene’s daughter Eve’s blood is that of a hybrid and will allow for more vampire/lycan hybrids if she is located. Teaming up with fellow vampire David (Theo James), Selene is thrust back into the world of the bloodsuckers when her help is requested by the vampire council in order to do battle with the new lycan leader, the powerful Marius (Tobias Menzies), who is also seeking Eve’s blood. Alliances are tested and traitors are revealed as the battle continues between the two long-time rival breeds.
That plot seem a little silly to you? Well, that’s because it is. To be quite honest, almost all of the dialogue in this movie was beyond silly and had me rolling my eyes for most of the film’s duration. There is no time for acting or nuance of any kind during this movie’s scant 92-minute runtime and that also includes a lengthy flashback scene at the beginning to remind everyone what happened in the last four movies. I think the biggest problem with this movie is that there is just far too much talking. I know that may sound like an odd criticism but bear with me for a second. You go and see a movie about vampires and werewolves engaging in a final (…yeah right), bloody battle for supremacy and what do you want or expect to see? Vampire councils? Political systems? Vampires who have gained the power to teleport because they nearly reached death? OK, maybe that last thing does sound kind of cool in a way. Honestly though, I just wanted an all-out crazy action movie!
If the majority of the film had been like its final 20 minutes, I think we could have gotten a fairly exciting or at least entertaining action/horror film. As it stands, the ending of the movie is easily the best part and it is the only section where it really feels like they are truly embracing the ludicrous nature of the plot. This is somewhat of a spoiler but I’ll omit the character names here but there is a scene in which someone’s spine is ripped clean out of their back. It is awesome. That is what I want in this movie and less of vampires mumbling about lycans and drinking other vampires’ blood to see their pasts. Yes, that’s right. In the world of this film, vampires can drink blood and use that as a sort of mind-reading device.
Now is the whole thing a complete wash? Well, this isn’t a good film. I would not say it’s a terrible movie but on the whole, it’s fairly weak. The best parts are definitely the aforementioned final 20 minutes as well as the lead performance from 43-year old (!!!) Kate Beckinsale. While she isn’t an acting revelation or anything, Beckinsale is clearly the only somewhat-developed character and the only one I really cared about in general. Tobias Menzies should be fun as the villain but he doesn’t chew any scenery or overact in any way. He plays it straight in a part where he should have been having a blast. Beckinsale, however, is used to playing this part and knows the right level of fun and playfulness to inject into her performance.
Quite simply, this movie just takes itself way too seriously and should have embraced a more fun, campy tone like the plot of the film seems to suggest. If they were so gung ho on making this a serious action film, they could have at least gotten a tighter script with better pacing. The last act of the movie is enough to save this from worst-of contention.
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)